In the words of supermodel and Project Runway host Heidi Klum: In fashion, one day you're in and the next you're out. One could say the same about Forbes.com's 2008 list of the World's Top-Earning Models. Some beauties moved up, some down, some off, a few on.
Then there's Gisele Bundchen, still entrenched firmly in the No. 1 spot with an estimated $35 million in earnings, more than double the $14 million banked by Heidi Klum, who came in second. The 15 models on our list were ranked primarily by estimated earnings over the past 12 months. Where necessary, prestige and relevancy of campaigns, editorials, fashion magazine covers and the opinion of those in the industry were taken into account.
Rounding out the top five are usual suspects Heidi Klum ($14 million), Kate Moss ($7.5 million), Adriana Lima ($7 million) and surprise addition Doutzen Kroes ($6 million). The 23-year-old honey from Holland made a long-legged leap up the charts from her second-to-last position last year. In 2008, the Calvin Klein and L'Oréal face expanded her deals and also hit the modeling mother lode: a Victoria's Secret contract.
"I wish we had snapped her up a long time ago," says Edward Razek, who has been selecting the company's models for a decade. Her agent, David Bonnouvrier, compares Kroes to Christy Turlington, another Calvin Klein muse. "It's that type of beauty," he says.
Bundchen may have ended her Victoria's Secret run, but her $5 million a year record-setting contract didn't expire until the end of December 2007, allowing much of it to be included in this year's tally. Even without the lingerie giant, the Brazilian bombshell continues to bag multiyear, multimillion-dollar contracts, most notably as the new face of Pantene and a cosmetics powerhouse that can't be named until July.
German übermodel Heidi Klum is smiling at No. 2 by virtue of not only her television success as host and executive producer of Bravo's (soon to be Lifetime's) "Project Runway," and as the host of Germany's version of "America's Next Top Model," but with a slew of campaigns and partnerships including ones with Diet Coke, Jordache and Mouawad jewelry. In her home country, there's new deals with McDonald's, Volkswagen and hair care giant Schwarzkopf.
Waif icon Kate Moss tripped up a bit last year by ending contracts with Burberry, Stella McCartney, Dior and Versace. But her eponymous clothing line with British retailer Topshop is a hit in 29 countries, including the U.K., the U.S., and Russia. With a yearly guarantee fee and royalties, Moss' fashion cents banks her in an extra estimated $2 million a year.
Victoria's Secret made millionaires of two newcomers: Miranda Kerr and Selita Ebanks, striking poses at Nos. 10 and 12, respectively. "Selita has a stunning smile and is a great on-camera spokeswoman," enthuses Razek. "Miranda's got the cheeks of a chipmunk, the smile of an angel and the body of a devil."
Fresh to the list is Revlon model Isabeli Fontana, who, at 24, has come out of semi-retirement after having two children. Fontana also poses for H&M, Versace and Dolce & Gabbana. Rounding up the newbies is Russian Valentina Zelyaeva, the exclusive model for Ralph Lauren and the face of two L'Oréal fragrances.
A noticeable drop-off is last year's No. 5, Victoria's Secret angel Alessandra Ambrosio, who took a break from bikinis due to her baby bulge. Liya Kebede was edged out of Estée Lauder, pushing her five places down to last place.
Last year, Forbes predicted that the supermodel era might make a bit of a comeback with L'Oréal signing up unknown beauty Doutzen Kroes to appear alongside Hollywood actresses Eva Longoria and Kerry Washington in its ads; homegrown athletic type Hilary Rhoda debuting as the face of Estée Lauder; and Vogue giving Russian stunner Natalia Vodianova its July cover.
It hasn't quite happened. While Kroes, Rhoda and Vodianova remain popular on Vogue's inside pages, no model except Gisele Bundchen has had a cover this year — and she had to share her space with basketball phenom LeBron James. Harper's Bazaar had zero model covers. Talk shows still won't book a girl just because she's pretty. Marisa Miller made the rounds as 2008's Sports Illustrated cover girl, and Karolina Kurkova went on The Ellen DeGeneres Show to promote Victoria's Secret's fashion show, but that's about it.
But keep an eye out. Those who do make it — like Tyra Banks and Heidi Klum with their model-moguldoms, and Bundchen and Kate Moss with their lucrative licensing deals — make it bigger than ever. Young models — the smart, ambitious ones, that is — are no doubt watching, and learning.